A U.S. Army soldier is facing a slew of terrorism charges after allegedly giving classified military information to a white supremacist group with Satanic leanings as part of a deadly plot against members of his own unit, prosecutors said.
The charges announced Monday in Manhattan Federal Court allege that Army Private Ethan Melzer gave information about U.S. troops stationed overseas — including whereabouts, movement and security details — to the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A). The intel supplied by Melzer was to be used as a way to carry out a "mass casualty" incident, according to the criminal complaint and indictment.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described O9A as an "occult neo-Nazi" organization, and British lawmakers have called for the group, which was founded there, to be banned. Prosecutors called the group an "neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group," which has praised some of history's most notorious figures such as Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden. Members and associates of the group have carried out acts of violence and murders in the past, prosecutors said.
The UK group Hope Not Hate, in its annual State of Hate report, cited O9A as a major influence on Nazi terror groups both in the United States and Europe.
"O9A seeks to harness supernatural forces and overthrow the alleged 'Nazarene/Magian' (Jewish) influence on society, reduce the population of 'mundanes' through acts of extreme barbarism, and usher in a new imperial aeon (age) ruled by a race of Satanic supermen who would colonise the solar system," the group wrote in this year's report.
Melzer, joined the hate group in 2019, the year after he joined the Army. Before he began plotting the attack, the Louisville, Kentucky, resident had been reading and gathering propaganda from a variety of extremist groups like O9A and ISIS, the criminal complaint and indictment read. One of the ISIS documents the FBI seized from Melzer's iCloud account described attacks and killings of U.S. personnel believed to have been carried out in April.
Around that same time, the Melzer's Army unit was told it would sent on a further foreign deployment. After receiving the assignment, the 22-year-old sent encrypted messages to members of O9A and a related group called "RapeWaffen Division" that pledged his support to their causes and contained the classified location information, according to the criminal complaint and indictment. Melzer and members of the groups allegedly planned what they called a "jihadi attack," in which the soldier said he was willing to die.
"Who give a f---...it would be another war," Melzer wrote the groups. "I would've died successfully ... cause another 10 year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark."
Some time around May 17, Melzer traded messages with a purported member of al Qaeda about the upcoming deployment, according to the court documents. A week later, he sent more specific information regarding his unit and the assignment, including: the number of soldiers traveling, location of the facility Melzer expected to be sent to, and information about the that facility's surveillance and defense capabilities. He also promised more information once they arrived at the location, as a way to maximize the likelihood of a successful attack, the criminal complain and indictment read.
Officials from the FBI and the U.S. Army thwarted the plan in late May, and Melzer was arrested June 10. He was in custody in the U.S. and awaiting arraignment, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
After his arrest, Melzer admitted to his deadly plan, and said his goal was to kill as many service members as possible, according to prosecutors. He also declared that he was a traitor against the U.S., and said what he planned was basically treason.
In a statement, Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss called Melzer "the enemy within" for his plan to take out as many of his fellow soldiers as possible.
"Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group. Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists," said Strauss. "As alleged, Melzer was motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal."
Melzer was charged with multiple counts of conspiring and attempting to murder U.S. nationals and military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country. Half of the charges carry a life sentence, if Melzer is convicted; others include as much as 15-20 years in prison. Attorney information for Melzer was not immediately made available.
"Melzer declared himself to be a traitor against the United States, and described his own conduct as tantamount to treason. We agree. He turned his back on his county and his unit while aligning himself with members of the neo-Nazi group O9A," said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney. "Today, he is in custody and facing a lifetime of service – behind bars – which is appropriate given the severity of the conduct we allege today.”